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Cartel gunmen kill 9 Americans: What we know about Mexico ambush that left 9 dead

Mexico attack
Posted at 2:58 PM, Nov 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-06 20:29:02-05

SONORA, MEXICO — Drug cartel gunmen ambushed three SUVs along a dirt road, slaughtering six children and three women -- all U.S. citizens living in northern Mexico -- in a grisly attack that left one vehicle a burned-out, bullet-riddled hulk, authorities said Tuesday.

FULL STORY: Nine American citizens, including two infants, were killed on Monday while traveling in Mexico

Details about the deadly Monday attack are continuing to develop. Here's what we know now:

  • Arrest made not connected: Officials now say an arrest made that was believed to be connected to this case is NOT connected. The Agency for Criminal Investigation said that one person was detained in possession of various assault rifles, including high-caliber weapons, near Aguaprieta, in the state of Sonora. It was originally reported that the arrest was connected, but Mexico officials now say the arrest is not connected.
  • 9 dead: One woman, Christina Langford Johnson, was killed after she apparently jumped out of her vehicle and waved her hands to show she wasn't a threat. A short distance away, Dawna Ray Langford, 43, lay dead in the front seat of another Suburban, along with the bullet-riddled bodies of her sons, ages 11 and 2. Kendra Lee Miller identified her sister-in-law, 30-year-old Rhonita Marie Miller and four of Rhonita's seven children — her 12-year-old son, 10-year-old daughter, and 8-month-old twins — among the victims.
  • 8 injured: Eight youngsters were found alive after escaping from the vehicles and hiding in the brush, but at least five had gunshot wounds or other injuries and were taken to the U.S. for treatment, officials said. Family confirms to ABC15 that the five children are in Tucson hospitals and all are in stable condition.
  • Burned and shot: The family was "ambushed" by an "armed group" at around 1 p.m. Arizona time, according to Mexico's security minister. Kendra Lee Miller said that when her relatives went to inspect the scene, "all they found was charred remains, ash and bones." The gunmen had riddled the vehicle with dozens of bullets and apparently hit the gas tank, causing it to explode.
  • Where it happened: The bloodshed took place Monday in a remote, mountainous area in northern Mexico where the Sinaloa cartel has been engaged in a turf war. The victims had set out to visit relatives in Mexico; one woman was headed to the airport in Phoenix to meet her husband.
  • About the victims: The victims, who all had dual US-Mexico citizenship, lived in Sonora state, about 70 miles south of Douglas, Arizona. The small village of La Mora was founded decades ago by an offshoot of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A spokesman for the church said the religious group was not affiliated with the LDS.
  • Community history: Similar American farming communities are clustered around the Chihuahua-Sonora state border. While some of the splinter groups were once polygamous, many no longer are. All of the victims were apparently related to the extended LeBaron family in Chihuahua, whose members have run afoul of the drug traffickers over the years. Benjamin LeBaron, an anti-crime activist who founded neighborhood patrols against cartels, was killed in 2009.
  • What the US is saying: The FBI has also offered to assist Mexican authorities in the investigation, and President Trump tweeted that a "wonderful family" got "caught between two vicious drug cartels." He said the U.S. "stands ready, willing & able to get involved and do the job quickly and effectively," adding, "The cartels have become so large and powerful that you sometimes need an army to defeat an army!"

The interactive map below shows the known locations related to the deadly shooting incident in Mexico.

Additionally, the map is color-coded to signify the cartel influence of each area in Mexico, according to 2018 data from Stratfor Global Intelligence and the Federation of American Scientists.

Orange indicates the Sinaloa cartel group, yellow indicates the Tamaulipas cartel group, and purple indicates the Tierra Caliente cartel group. Areas in gray represents places where multiple cartel groups have influence.